20 Jun 2002

Suspended Fiji official accuses prime minister of buying votes

4:59 pm on 20 June 2002

A suspended top official in Fiji says last August's election was won by the current government because it bought votes.

In a writ, the suspended permanent secretary of the agriculture ministry, Peniasi Kunatuba, says the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase misused millions of dollars in farming assistance funds to buy the votes.

Mr Kunatuba is facing 66 disciplinary charges in relation to the 15-million US dollar farming assistance scam brought about by the Public Service Commission.

In papers filed before the high court, Kunatuba asks why the interim cabinet allowed the money to be spent after the appeal court had validated the 1997 constitution in March last year.

Mr Kunatuba's lawyer Tevita Fa says before the last election, the Qarase cabinet purported to be spending the money on farming and fishing equipment for indigenous Fijians and Rotumans.

"They distributed this fund, between April 2001 and the general election of 2001 a total of 15.6 million dollars was used. Peniasi is now saying it was used for the purpose of buying votes and this is why Laisenia Qarase won that last election"

Tevita Fa.